In case you haven't noticed in your area of the state, association championships, or city tournaments, are floundering. Entries have been low for years. Reading various associations' board of director minutes, this is not an isolated incident. It is happening all over the state. What can be done to increase city tournament entries?
League bowling is down
Let us not forget this important fact. Long gone are the times of two night shifts of league bowling. Long gone are the days when open bowling was only available during the day and Saturday nights. So of course, association tournament entries will be down also. Now, it is more important than ever to increase the percentage of your membership into tournament entries. There are different ways to secure this goal; a positive one and a negative one.
Promote, Market, Publish, Inquire, Advertise
The association board of directors and various house representatives basically have to work every league night in every house and invite everyone to participate. This is more than making the P.A. announcement at the counter. Invite each team to enter. If they are having a good time bowling one night a week with their friends, why not do it on another week-end? An Open association does not discriminate on gender anymore, so all are welcome to enter the open tournament. Try this method but let everyone know months in advance when the tournament is being held. "The tournament has always been held on these week-ends." Don't assume everyone knows this. Publishing entry forms for the bowling centers 3 weeks in advance of the closing date and posting tournament information on the association web site less than a month before entries are due is not timely promotion. Too many competing activities and other commitments can fill up a person's calendar long before you even notify the community of the city tournament dates.
Change the Dates
If the city tournament has been losing entries, maybe it is time to change the time of the season when it is being held. Leagues that last more than 32 weeks are dwindling as more and more people think the typical bowling season is too long. Shorter season leagues are getting more popular. While the bowling season is young and interest is at its zenith, hold a city tournament. I've noticed that some associations hold their championships in October and November. The association may not have to worry about a ten-pin rule if your bowlers don't have 21 games in the current season for average establishment.
Solicit input from the members
While board members are promoting the tournament, handing out entry forms, ask the bowlers about why they have not participated in past tournaments. Ask for their ideas. They may be more honest than anonymous surveys or e-mails.
I mentioned earlier of positive changes and negative changes for the association tournament. Positive changes are inclusive so all bowlers feel welcome. Negative changes are exclusionary where bowlers feel they are not wanted in the tournament. One idea that always limits the amount of bowlers available for leagues or tournaments is the average cap. The average cap is the top limit for a sum of a team's individual averages. Obviously, the idea is to foster more balance and equal playing strength among the teams in a league or tournament. There are a few reasons why this won't work. First reason is that the average cap is usually poorly chosen and static. With today's high scoring conditions, bowlers in an high scoring house can not bowl together because they made the unfortunate choice of bowling league in an easy house. Teammates for years cannot bowl together in this average capped tournament or league. Some average capped leagues have had to keep raising the maximum team average to keep the current teams in the league intact. So, instead of recruiting new bowlers, these leagues are trying to retain the ones they have by raising the average cap each year. Soon, the average cap is so high it defeats the purpose of having one.
Who is helped and who is hurt?
Are the high average bowlers winning too much? Mathematically, the higher your average, the more times you should win. I have always believed that you increase your skills by competing against better bowlers. There is always someone better. However, if everyone feels they have no chance and the better bowlers are 'taking all the money,' a perception becomes reality. However, city tournaments have never involved a lot of money. Even brackets and side-pots are measly because tournament squads are small. However, these higher average bowlers support the association championships by entering multiple times. The other side of the equation of the higher average bowlers 'taking all the money' is that the higher average bowlers are putting in the most money by entering multiple times. Rules limiting the number of team events one can enter only seem to apply to these bowlers as they will bowl on two or three teams.
So, an average cap prevents the bowlers who most support the tournament from even entering it. An association championship, as well as league bowling, is still a social activity. Strangers don't come together to form teams to enter a tournament so as to meet average cap requirements.
Tournament managers want the maximum number of entries for their event, so why would any tournament exclude people from entering?